So exciting! A long weekend! So much time for reading! So many exclamations! Because we love long weekends!
Can you tell I’m happy? It’s because today is my 21st anniversary. So I’m on my way to a romantic mini-break. Of course I’m toting a pile of books even though supposedly I’m going to be focused on my husband. But after 21 years of marriage, he knows -a happy wife is a happy life. And a happy wife is one who’s reading a great book.
Today I’m doing something different. I’m going to tell you about four books you MUST read (there were a few more on the list, but I’ve got them scheduled for Blog tours or they’re not published yet. So that would be teasing and also would defeat the purpose of this post which is to give you suggestions for what to read NOW. Excited? Let’s do this.
The Marrying of Chani Kaufman brings readers into the ultra-orthodox London neighbourhood of Golders Green, and into the life of nineteen-year old Chani as she prepares for her wedding day—and wedding night—to Baruch, a boy, essentially a stranger, whom she is bound to by tradition, and whose family does not consider her good enough. Meanwhile Chani’s rebbetzin (Rabbi’s wife), Rifka who is to teach Chani what it means to be a Jewish wife, is in the midst of a major crisis of faith.
This book, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize, is SO good. The writing is fantastic and it’s unsentimental, tender, and sometimes a little sad. Happily, the characters are interesting, witty, and even surprisingly wicked. We really care about what’s happening to them. Plus, there are parts that are completely unpredictable. Whether you know anything about Orthodox Jewry or not, you’ll be drawn into the richly designed lives of Kaufman’s characters.
Kooky mama, precocious daughter, clueless husband and annoying suburban housewives. Sounds like it’s formulaic, but it’s not. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple was one of my favourite books from last summer. Bernadette is just so wacky that she makes me feel secure in my own personal brand of nuts. And her daughter, Bee is old for her age, but not in an annoying Disney channel sort of way. Written in emails, faxes, texts, and ordinary writing, you’ll either love, hate, or just won’t ‘get’ it (but I hope it’s the former). It’s the perfect follow up to The Rosie Project. Pure adoration. Don’t take my word for it, just read it.
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.
To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.
Next we’ve got The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman: A story of an electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century. With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character.
I was warned that this novel was very different than Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers, and so I was prepared. But it wasn’t so much. The author still maintains an air of magical realism and mysticism, and continues to play with light and dark. She has an uncanny to ability create robust and interesting characters we truly want to get to know. Is it possible? I think I liked it more than Dovekeepers. Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s museum, alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.
The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.
The Book of Jonah by Joshua Max Feldman makes it on this list because it will make you think and it will make you smarter and plus my son’s name is Jonah so it gets bonus stars.
The modern-day Jonah at the center of Joshua Max Feldman’s brilliantly conceived retelling of the book of Jonah is a young Manhattan lawyer named Jonah Jacobstein.
He’s a lucky man: healthy and handsome, with two beautiful women ready to spend the rest of their lives with him and an enormously successful career that gets more promising by the minute. He’s celebrating a deal that will surely make him partner when a bizarre, unexpected biblical vision at a party changes everything. Hard as he tries to forget what he saw, this disturbing sign is only the first of many Jonah will witness, and before long his life is unrecognizable. Though this perhaps divine intervention will be responsible for more than one irreversible loss in Jonah’s life, it will also cross his path with that of Judith Bulbrook, an intense, breathtakingly intelligent woman who’s no stranger to loss herself.
As this funny and bold novel moves to Amsterdam and then Las Vegas, Feldman examines the way we live now while asking an age-old question: How do you know if you’re chosen?
The Book of Jonah is major literary debut and is extremely well-crafted. When Feldman lets himself get lost in the actual storytelling (for example when he’s sharing Judith’s life ), the book is actually quite excellent. Unfortunately, Jonah’s sections can be strange and rambling and yes, a bit self-aggrandizing. And to be honest, if you understand the ending, please explain it to me (maybe it’s because I’m not entirely familiar with the background story. Bad JEW!). Having said that, the novel, an interesting commentary on whether where we decide to go in life is actually where we’re supposed to be, is well worth a read for those of us who dabble in literary fiction. Fans of Meg Wolitzer will definitely likey (especially if you dug Uncoupling.)